Washington (CNN)– For the first time in its 124-year history, the Gridiron Club is, on a trial basis, partially lifting its "off the record" rule for its annual dinners.
"Ladies are always present; reporters are never present," has been a club motto since the beginning – and its spring and winter dinners billed as an "off the record" night of humorous speeches and musical skits, most of them good naturedly lampooning politicians and the reporters who cover them.
But club leaders announced the experiment Saturday morning, describing it as a bow to the reality of the "Twitter" age.
It is a one-time trial for the winter dinner, which this year features Sarah Palin and Barney Frank as the Republican and Democratic speakers, respectively.
The winter dinner is a smaller affair than the spring event, which normally draws the president and a "who's who" of Washington.
At the winter event, attendance is limited to members and their spouses or one guest.
Club leaders said the policy will be re evaluated after this weekend's dinner.
The event remains closed to media coverage - meaning reporters who are not members or invited guests cannot attend to cover the proceedings - and no photographs are allowed.
At a morning Gridiron meeting, club leaders stressed they hoped reporting of the event would be minimal and urged members not to type notes or "tweet" during the speeches.
But they said it has become common practice for accounts of the dinners to appear in media accounts, and so they had reluctantly decided to experiment with a new policy.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A leading liberal Democrat in the House blasted the embattled community organizing group ACORN Wednesday and said he is urging the White House to withhold any federal funding for the group.
"I am very disappointed in the actions that were taken by members of ACORN," Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement Wednesday, "and I do not believe that ACORN's response has been adequate for an organization that has received public funding."
Frank also said in the statement that he is urging the Obama administration to withhold any additional funding for ACORN "at least until there is very firm evidence that the abuses of which ACORN members have been guilty have not only ceased, but that procedures are in place to prevent them from happening again."
In a written statement issued Wednesday, ACORN took issue with Frank's criticism.
"While we greatly respect Rep. Barney Frank and have enjoyed the work we have shared over the years," the statement said, "ACORN disagrees with his position on the recent Congressional action to single out our organization and bar us from competing for federal grants."
Asked about Frank's comments during a conference call with reporters, the CEO of ACORN said Wednesday that the organization is moving quickly to address the conduct of some of its employees displayed in videos produced by conservative activists and recently released on the Internet. The videos show some ACORN workers advising the activists, who were posing as a pimp and a prostitute, how to set up a prostitution business involving underage, foreign girls.
"There is no bigger critic of ACORN than its members and its board," the group's CEO Bertha Lewis said, "We were just as shocked and horrified as the American public was [to see the videos]."
"I will not tolerate such behavior," Lewis added.
Lewis's comments were part of an increasing crisis management effort on the part of ACORN. The group recently announced that it has retained Scott Harshbarger, the former Attorney General of Massachusetts, and Harshbarger's law firm to conduct an independent inquiry into ACORN's delivery of social services as well as a general review of ACORN's management.
"We are going to conduct a no-holds-barred review," Harshbarger told reporters Wednesday.
Harshbarger also said ACORN's leadership has requested that that report and findings be made public "at the appropriate time."
CNN Correspondent Jim Acosta was on the scene at the Frank town hall. Listen:
(CNN) - Most Congress members conducting town hall meetings this month have chosen a noncombative posture to deal with angry participants who disrupt the proceedings. Not Rep. Barney Frank.
At a lively two-hour meeting Tuesday night in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Frank gave as good as he got in confronting opponents of overhauling the nation's health care system.
The crowded hall had both supporters and detractors, but the opposing side was much louder and more raucous, booing the Massachusetts Democrat from the moment he was introduced and shouting questions and challenges at him throughout.
"You want me to talk about it or do you want to yell?" he asked over and over when interrupted while trying to answer. Continued shouting brought a sterner rebuke.
"Disruption never helps your cause," he said more than once. "It just looks like you're afraid to have rational discussion."
While Frank attempted to respond to all questions, he gave up when one woman compared health care proposals favored by Frank and President Obama to policies of Nazi Germany.
(CNN) – Four days after the Justice Department filed a brief strongly supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, openly gay Rep. Barney Frank said the Obama administration made a "big mistake" and is calling on the president to clearly explain his views on the matter.
"I think the administration made a big mistake. The wording they used was inappropriate," the Massachusetts Democrat told the Boston Herald during an interview published in the paper's Wednesday edition.
Update: Rep. Frank has since said his comments were based on a flawed description of the administration's brief and believes President Obama does not deserve criticism for the document. (full statement below)
Many gay activists have called on Frank and other gay members of Congress to speak out against the recent DOJ brief, which appeared to equate gay marriage to incest in its reasoning that states have the right not to recognize gay marriages from other states.
The brief says states favor heterosexual marriages because they are the "traditional and universally recognized form of marriage," and specifically argued that the Constitution's "full faith and credit" clause - whereby states have to respect the "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings" - does not apply to gay marriage just as it does not apply to mariages involving incest.
"I've been in touch with the White House and I'm hoping the president will make clear these were not his views," Frank also said.
(Updated below the jump with latest Frank statement)
(CNN) - The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee said Monday that federal funding for affordable rental properties must be increased.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, also warned that a Bush-era policy to help low-income families become homeowners instead of renters contributed to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and, ultimately, the larger economic crisis now confronting the country.
Frank made his remarks during a speech at the National Low Income Housing Coalition's policy conference in Washington.
"It is in 2003 and after that the percentage of mortgage loans that went to lower-income people spiked and the number who weren't able to pay spiked, and it's connected," said Frank, who chairs the committee that oversees all components of the nation's housing and financial services sectors.
(CNN) - Rep. Barney Frank called Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a "homophobe" in a recent interview with a gay news website.
The openly-gay Massachusetts Democrat was referring to the Defense of Marriage Act, which says the federal government and states are not obligated to recognize same-sex marriages, even if the relationship is considered a marriage by another state. Frank was responding to whether cases involving gay marriage should be heard in the high court at this time.
"I wouldn't want it to go to the United States Supreme Court now because that homophobe Antonin Scalia has too many votes on this current court," Frank said in an interview with 365gay.com.
Scalia is no stranger to criticism over hs views on gay rights. The Supreme Court Justice dissented from the court in 2003 in Lawrence vs. Texas, a case that struck down sodomy laws. Scalia said the decision was "a massive disruption of the current social order."
(CNN) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo may have the names of those AIG employees who received bonuses, but House Financial Services chairman Barney Frank does not, according to his spokesman.
"We are consulting with law enforcement after the concerns that [AIG CEO] Mr. Liddy raised in the hearings. We will decided what we do after that consultation," said Steve Adamske, Frank's spokesman.
Frank has been demanding the names of AIG executives who received bonuses, and threatened a subpoena to get them. Cuomo has cited security concerns as a reason not to release the names.
Edward Liddy also testified before Frank's committee on Wednesday that he did not want the names released to the public, for fear of their safety.
Frank said he couldn't promise that he wouldn't release the names, and said he would consult law enforcement officials about security concerns.
(CNN) – As the tide of outrage over AIG bonuses continued unabated Wednesday, a congressional committee became the epicenter of the issue as Edward Liddy, CEO and chairman of the troubled insurer, prepared to answer questions about executive bonuses.
On Wednesday's "American Morning," Rep. Barney Frank, who chairs the House Finance Committee, shared what was legally and legislatively within the government's power on recovering the AIG bonuses and reforming the whole financial incentive system.
Kiran Chetry, CNN anchor: When he appears before your committee today, what type of assurances are you guys seeking from Mr. Liddy with regard to these bonuses?
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts: Well, I don't have a lot of confidence in Mr. Liddy's view at this point. When he said that first he couldn't get the money back because they had contractual rights but also that he was worried about not retaining them, it left me unconvinced he's really going to be trying.
CNN's Lisa Desjardins and John Lisk reveal what's ahead for AIG on Capitol Hill.
To subscribe to this podcast, go to cnn.com/podcast.
(CNN) – As outrage over American International Group bonuses spreads and finger-pointing continues, lawmakers are trying to convince the public that it isn't their fault.
Senators and representatives are vowing to get the bonus money back, but questions have risen why didn't Congress act to prevent the bonuses in the first place?
"Well, the only lever we have in this is the fact that these corporations have come to the Congress of the United States and want a taxpayers' bailout," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday on CNN's "American Morning."
"If it weren't for that, we would not have any leverage on how any individual corporation is being run, and we don't pretend to have any leverage on any corporation today in the United States that's not seeking federal help," said Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - When those automakers flew to congress in corporate jets to ask for a taxpayer bailout, no one was more upset than the powerful chairman of the house financial services committee, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.
So irate over the use of corporate jets, Frank was determined to make sure it never happened again. His plan: no corporate executives coming to Washington asking for bailout money would be allowed to travel in those multi-million dollar symbols of excess.
To make sure corporate America got the message, Mr. Frank dropped a provision into the latest bailout bill, H.R. 384, the TARP Reform and Accountability Act, requiring would-be recipients of taxpayer funds to dump their corporate fleets. The message: If you want taxpayer money, sell your jet and fly commercial.
That sure sounded tough. And it sure sent a message to the automakers. When they came back to Washington, they drove.
But last week, Rep. Frank quietly stripped the no-jet provision from the bill. Why?